Friday, January 24, 2003

Thinking Off the Page (Bonus Post)

I am sure that you have heard the phrase, "thinking out of the box." It represents those hopefully fortunate times when our minds make a leap outside the boundaries of conventional wisdom. Sometimes you can see it coming, such as the catastrophe brewing in physics before Einstein published his Theory of Relativity. Other times, it just happens and one has to marvel at the ingenuity, the new thinking, that led to invention.

I have just come across such a thing. Indeed this so much amazes me that I would like to suggest to the world at large that we should no longer refer to "thinking out of the box," but rather "thinking off the page."

Try this: use ink-jet printers to produce new biological tissue in three dimensions. Just empty the ink and fill with a solution of the right cells. Modify the ink squirting software, which is complex in its own right, to properly handle this new stuff, and print onto a substrate in multiple passes.

My idea? Hardly. But you will find more information by clicking here.

In wrath, remember mercy.

Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

There are times when a teacher has the joy of changing a person's view of life. This happened to me a little over a year ago as I was teaching about Jeremiah. A young woman came up to me afterwards and said, "I have always pictured Jesus standing between me and the Father, such that the Father did not really see me, but saw Jesus instead. Now I see that I have access to the Father, because of what Jesus did for me." To this I replied, "You got it!" She moved from perceiving the Father as angry to seeing Him as a kind Father.

Because God hates sin, it is easy to imagine Him in a rage over our thoughts and actions. We fail to see His love and mercy. Nearly 15 years ago, I was listening to a song on a Christian radio station. The words went, "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance O Lord." And I thought to myself, much to my embarrassment today, that those words represented some watered down message that did not account for God's holiness. I was wrong, of course. Paul is the one who wrote, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

And yet, there is such a thing as God's wrath. He brought on Noah's flood. He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He overthrew Jerusalem and sent the people of Israel into exile. There is a hell and a future judgment. The book of Revelation describes the pouring out of God's wrath on the whole world. So, how do we square kindness, mercy, and wrath?

To begin with, lets look at the prelude to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:

And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord.

Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.”

And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. “Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place. (Genesis 18:20-33)

In fact, there was only a single righteous family in the city, and the two angels got them out prior to its destruction. But notice the Lord's willingness to hold off wrath for the sake of the righteous. Sodom was a place where the kindness of God was no longer effective in leading anyone in the city to repentance. The city was violent and unsafe. We must see its destruction as an act of mercy to the surrounding cities and nations. If I have a finger full of gangrene, it must come off or the body will die.

Here is another example. The Lord asked Jeremiah to "'Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, And look now and take note. And seek in her open squares, If you can find a man, If there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, Then I will pardon her. And although they say, "As the Lord lives," Surely they swear falsely.' O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, But they did not weaken; You have consumed them, But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to repent." (Jeremiah 5:1-3) The Lord told Jeremiah that a single man in Jerusalem who did justice and sought truth would be enough to pardon the city. Apparently there was no such individual. There is not time to develop the hardness and the degree of faithlessness in the city of Jerusalem such that the Lord finally brought Nebuchadnezzar to tear down the city and deport its people, but it was there.

And the Lord's mercy was there as well. He had His prophet Jeremiah in the city to advise anyone who would listen that God's will was for them to leave the city and go over to the side of the Babylonians. No one had to suffer the famine and disease in the city. And consider the effect of the two earlier deportations. The first took the bright young men from Jerusalem who entered, like Daniel, into the upper reaches of Babylonian government and could buffer the brutality it might otherwise display. The second took the builders and craftsmen to Babylon where they built the communities that would finally receive the refugees from Jerusalem's fall. This, too, was mercy. There was sin beyond God's kindness in Jerusalem and she fell. Out of the fall came the remnant and they had a place to go and be received among friends.

Lamentations is a series of laments over Jerusalem's destruction. The author saw horrors beyond imagining during the siege. He descends in despair to the point where he says, "So I say, 'My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the Lord.'” (Lamentations 3:18) And yet, just a few verses later, he says, "This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21-23) The author based his hopes on the fact that God's wrath is the anomaly, not His mercy. It is the Lord's mercy that is the norm, not His wrath.

And so we find, in the book of Revelation, these words, "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'” (Revelation 6:15-17) The "wrath of the lamb?" You have got to be joking. Lambs are cute fluffy gentle creatures and are not usually associated with anger. But the imagery is clear. In wrath, the Lord is showing His face of mercy and offering, up to the very end, His salvation and grace. And, of course, the Lamb, whose wrath will be so feared, was slain as the very essence of God's mercy and kindness to us.

And so, God prefers to show mercy and His wrath works His mercy.

Grace and Peace to you all.

Monday: The Choosing and Training of the Twelve (1)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Test everything; Cling to what is good.

This past weekend, I attended a prophecy seminar. Now such things come in two varieties. The most common, I suspect, have to do with what the Bible has to say about the end times and how close people think we are to them. The seminar that I attended was of a second variety, which is the use of the prophetic gifting to build up the church.

The gift of prophecy gets very good billing from Paul, "Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For the one speaking in a tongue does not speak to people but to God, for no one understands; he is speaking mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. I wish you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets so that the church may be strengthened." (1 Corinthians 14:1-5) Note how Paul begins here, "be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." Why is it that this gift is so rare and, perhaps worse, its reliability so low?

The catch is that those with the gift of prophecy will never be confused with those who have the gift of teaching. They do things like Agabus who "took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it, and said, 'The Holy Spirit says this: "This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man whose belt this is, and will hand him over to the Gentiles."'" (Acts 21:11) Or take Ezekiel who played toy soldiers (Ezekiel 4:1-3). In other words, prophets tend to be symbolic and often have the freedom to make utter fools of themselves, e.g. when Micah says of himself, "For this reason I will mourn and wail; I will walk around barefoot and without my outer garments. I will howl like a wild dog,and screech like an owl." (Micah 1:8)

Now when I teach or write, what I have to say is open to fair-minded analysis. But how does one judge the one who has a prophetic word? How does one evaluate a woman lying on the floor, as I have seen, screaming as if she were in the transition stage of child-birth labor? You will not find the scripture to write her off!

This weekend, there was a woman who sang her prophetic words. She led off a team of five prophetic types, but the others had little chance to participate, because she sang whatever notes and words that came into her head for a full hour. During this time, she sung actual words to three people. The rest of the time was a rambling mixture of praise and general exhortation. Was this performance to my preference or liking? Of course, not! Could it have been of the Holy Spirit? Yes, it could. So I did what I do in such situations, I put off judgment and observe how things develop.

The next day, this same woman again took up song and again consumed so much time that the others again had little time to participate. My suspicions rose all the more. Two events clinched the matter for me. The first is that she had a personal word for me. She spoke of the rest that I needed from the arguing that surrounded me. Being one who enjoys labor and one who enjoys having a peaceful home, her remarks did not seem to fit. The second event occurred when I later advised her of missing the mark with me. She did not take the criticism well, and picked up her things and left. Since then, I have felt released to say that, at least on this occasion, her gifting was suspect.

Against such things, one could retreat to the safety of non-charismatic evangelicalism. People certainly mature in such an environment and things rarely get sloppy. But Paul challenges that path, "Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. But examine all things; hold fast to what is good; stay away from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-23) Why would Paul advise us to "not treat prophecies with contempt" if they were not at times contemptible? And, it would seem, treating prophecies with contempt is a form of quenching the Holy Spirit. According to Paul the answer is in testing and not in extinguishing. For the evangelical, it means an increased openness to the diverse ways of the Holy Spirit. For the charismatic, it means to be on the look out and not to give yourself over to something that is strange until you or someone else has certified that it is of the Holy Spirit and not of the person or worse.

Test everything; Cling to what is good. There are reliable prophetic voices out there--and some of them just might sing for an hour. These are men and women more in the service of God and mankind than to themselves. (And by the way, everything I have said applies to teachers, pastors, evangelists and apostles also.)

Friday: In wrath, remember mercy

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

What is really different in the New Covenant - Part 4 - The Two Pentecosts

Click here to get to the beginning of this series.

The Jewish people celebrate Pentecost, or Shavuot as they call it, some 50 days after the Passover celebration. On this day they celebrate the giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai as record in Exodus 19, 20. Centuries later another group of Jews celebrated Shavuot some 50 days after Passover. On this Passover, however, their master and teacher Jesus had His last meal with them. Within 24 hours, he was dead by crucifixion. However, as we know, He rose that Sunday and began a series of personal appearances with His disciples. He promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came, which happened on the day of Pentecost.

And so, Pentecost celebrates the inauguration of both the Old and the New Covenants.

Here is a very brief summary of the flow of events when the Law came forth from Mount Sinai. The Lord told Moses that He desired to have a “nation of priests” (Exodus 19:6). A few days later, the Lord descended on Mount Sinai with fire, smoke, the sound of a trumpet, and other manifestations (Exodus 19:16-25). On the mount, the Lord spoke, out loud, the 10 commandments to the people (Exodus 20:1-17). The people responded by drawing back and asking Moses to be a mediator. In the end, the people did not become a nation of priests. Rather, that responsibility fell to the descendants of Aaron.

Let’s compare these events with the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. Whereas a single fire descended and landed on the top of the mountain and before a barrier keeping the people away, when the Holy Spirit came, the fire separated and alighted on individual believers. This signified the new access to the Father that we have in the New Covenant. The presence of God no longer was no longer remote and terrifying, but was now individual and within. Whereas the Lord spoke from Mount Sinai, it is the believers, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who spoke this time. Whereas the ancient Israelites withdrew, on this Day of Pentecost, the people came close and 3,000 were saved. Indeed, all became priests (Revelation 5:9, 10). When Jesus died and took His own blood into the Holy Place in heaven, He established the New Covenant. Because the hearts of men could now be cleansed and healed, the Holy Spirit could now indwell every believer.

Here we have what is really different in the New covenant. I will say this strongly. It is the Holy Spirit that is the key distinctive of the New Covenant over the Old. some might object and say that the New Covenant means that we are saved by faith. That is not new, because Abraham is the father of justification by faith (Genesis 15:6). Blood has provided a covering for sin since the Lord clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. The Lord’s lovingkindness and mercy are expressions of His grace. Faith, blood, and grace are active principles in the Old Covenant and not just the New. The new thing in Acts 2 is the indwelling, sanctifying, and empowering effect of the Holy Spirit made possible by the cleansing blood of Jesus the Messiah. From this base, we can comprehend what Jeremiah meant by the Law written on out hearts. Here is how Paul puts it:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:1-11).

Notice Paul’s words “that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). One can begin to see the dynamics of the Lord’s words through Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it” (Jeremiah 31:33b). As we walk according to the Spirit, we begin to manifest a godliness that emanates from within.

Paul says again,

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2-5)

When Paul says, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3b), does he not imply that there is a “being perfected” by the Spirit? The doctrine of sanctification recognizes this principle that the Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer by conforming him or her into the image of Jesus Christ. This transformation is the work of the Lord putting His Law within us and writing it on our hearts.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:16-26).

Think of all that these lessons have discussed concerning the heart, and the Old and New Covenants, and you will find expression in these few verses. Paul’s words here tell of the propensity of the heart to deceit and sin. It hints that there are laws against the expressions of the flesh. It puts forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit as He operates in the lives of believers and does the work of writing Law in the heart. The work of the Holy Spirit is the work of generating righteous self-giving behavior. We must understand that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not that I receive, from the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, and so forth. Rather it is that I, by the Holy Spirit, will be a source of love, joy, peace, and so forth. A tree does not eat its own fruit. The fruit is for those who come to the tree hungry.

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, in concept, is like the “corners of the field.” When do I show enough love, bring enough joy, broker enough peace, and have a character as kind, good, faithful, gentle, and under control as can be? Through the Holy Spirit, I can increase in such things every day of my life.

So the New Covenant is the basis by which the Lord can fully restore all things. His Son came to earth, lived, died, and rose from the dead. His death enabled the cleansing of our hearts from sin so that the Holy Spirit could indwell, empower, and sanctify us. In this way, we have forgiveness of sin, the knowledge of God, and the Law within us. It is for these reasons that the New Covenant will succeed where the Old Covenant failed. Does this mean that we will find perfection in this life? No! Even Paul near the end of his life refers to himself as the “foremost of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15, 16). The writing of the Law on our hearts is a process, which is why Jeremiah’s New Covenant also tells us that the Lord will forgive our sin and remember it no more. How good it is to be in this age!

Thursday: Test Everything; Cling to what is good.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

What is really different in the New Covenant - Part 3 - The New Covenant

Yesterday, we closed with Jeremiah's prophetic words, “'I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds.” The houses of Judah and Israel broke the Old Covenant. The first tenet of the New Covenant is that the Law would be within the people of God and that it would be written on their hearts. The Law would not be on tablets of stone or on the leather pages of a scroll. It will instead be an operating principle in the heart. This is indeed new! Under the Old Covenant the forefathers forgot the Lord, but in the new, “they will all know me.” Under the Old Covenant, sin was remembered, but in the new, “I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.”

On our side of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the New Covenant is operational. Consequenlty, we should be able to examine Jeremiah’s text and see its fulfillment in the New Testament. So let us take these three components of the New Covenant:

  1. We will all know God;
  2. Our sin will be forgiven and forgotten; and
  3. The Law will be within us and written on our hearts.

Let us look at some New Covenant Scriptures that illustrate how all these components are part of the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus the Messiah.

“They will all know me.” The presence of Jesus the Messiah on the earth revealed the Father and made Him known in an intimate way. For us to know Jesus is to know God. Note these two passages from several in the New Testament:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3). “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:7).

The writer to the first century Jewish believers tells us that God has spoken to us in His Son and that the Son was an “exact representation” of His nature. And Jesus’ own words tell us that to know Him is to know the Father.

“I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more.” The single most complete treatment of this aspect of the New Covenant is presented in Hebrews, chapters 8 through 10. In chapter 8, the writer clearly connects Jesus as the high priest and mediator of Jeremiah’s New Covenant. In chapter 9, he tells us how Jesus took His own blood into the holy place that is in heaven to provide an “eternal redemption.” Chapter 10 contrasts the work of the Aaronic priesthood with the priesthood of Jesus. Throughout this section in Hebrews, the superiority of Jesus sacrifice for sin is put forth.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:11-15).

“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it.” The first two parts of the New Covenant are well understood by all believers. They form the basis of the gospel message preached today. We all speak of salvation in terms of “knowing Christ” and “forgiveness of sin.” What is not so well understood, because of a widespread misunderstanding of the place of Law in the New Covenant, is having the Law “within us” and “written on our hearts.”

Let me first talk about the misunderstanding of the place of Law in the New Covenant. The way some Christians talk, one gets the idea that the Law is bad. Such a notion does not stand the test of New Testament Scriptures. In the first place, Paul used Law to argue his points. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to establish the right of a minister of the gospel to make a living from the gospel. In the second place, Paul spells out the place that Law has in the life of faith:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

According to Paul, the Law still serves to identify sin. A person who is righteous has no need for the Law, but who is righteous? The point is that Jesus Christ did not do away with God’s standards of righteousness. It is still there, it still gives light, and it is still useful. Paul’s admonition to the Galatian churches was that they do not bind themselves to the Old Covenant to seek its blessings, because that path can only bring the curses. Instead they were to “walk by the Spirit.”

According to Jeremiah, and also the teaching of Paul as we shall see, Law has a place in the New Covenant. But the placement of the Law changes from stone and parchment to the heart of man. Perhaps the best way to understand what it means for Law to be “written on our hearts” is to examine Mount Sinai (Exodus 19, 20) and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). This might seem strange to you, because very few Gentiles know that Pentecost is the day when the Jews celebrate the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. So you can see that this day commemorates both the beginning of the Old and the New Covenants. Therefore, it would seem worth our while to compare the two events. This, however is for tomorrow.

Wednesday: The Two Pentecosts

Monday, January 20, 2003

What is really different in the New Covenant - Part 2 -- Diagnosis and Cure

What should be apparent, from the last posting, is that the Old Covenant, although good and right, was doomed to fail. In the days of Jeremiah, all that remained of the Covenant was the execution of the curses against the inhabitants of Judah. Through Jeremiah, the Lord diagnoses the condition of the people and gives His prognosis of the outcome, "Moreover, the Lord says to the people of Zion,'Your injuries are incurable; your wounds are severe. There is no one to plead your cause. There are no remedies for your hurts.There is no healing for you.'" (Jeremiah 30:12-13). The disease is terminal. There seems to be no hope. The children of Israel must be, it seems, no more.

But like a cancer patient who is told that there is no hope, but only certain death, so it is with God’s people. We can always turn and seek the power and mercy of God. Some people diagnosed with a fatal injury or sicknesses are healed. I do not know of a single believer who will not pray for the healing of someone he or she loves. And so, even though the prognosis for Jerusalem and Judah is not good, we find that the Lord revealed to Jeremiah His plans to heal and restore His people, "Yes, I will restore you to health. I will heal your wounds. I, the Lord, affirm it.That is because you have been called an outcast, Zion, whom no one cares for.” (Jeremiah 30:17) Again the Lord tells Jeremiah, “But I will most surely heal the hurts of this city and restore it and its people to health. I will show them abundant peace and security." (Jeremiah 33:6)

A different path to righteousness is needed to accomplish this healing, however. The Covenant of Law could not bring righteousness, but perhaps there could be another way. Through Jeremiah, the Lord says, "Under his rule Judah will enjoy safety and Jerusalem will live in security. At that time Jerusalem will be called 'The Lord has provided us with justice.'” (Jeremiah 33:16) The Net Bible is a bit off in its translation for "The Lord has provided us with justice" is a translation of YHWH TZIDKENU or "The Lord is our righteousness." Here is a recognition that the deceitful heart of man could never stand in its own righteousness, but that perhaps the Lord, Himself, could supply or be the required righteousness.

It is the heart of man that pre-empts the blessings intended by Old Covenant Law. That is why the Law convicts of sin. For the Lord to bring healing, something fundamental must happen to the heart. It is not surprising, then, when Jeremiah writes down the words of the New Covenant to come, that it involves the heart: “'Indeed, a time is coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old agreement that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they violated that agreement, even though I was a faithful husband to them,' says the Lord. 'But I will make a new agreement with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,' says the Lord. 'I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. And I will be their God and they will be my people. People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. That is because all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,' says the Lord. 'All of this is based on the fact that I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.'” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Tuesday: The New Covenant